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Home Benfica The Coronavirus Patient Had a Question: Don’t You Lead a Soccer Team?

The Coronavirus Patient Had a Question: Don’t You Lead a Soccer Team?

He swapped his blazer and tie for the uncomfortable match of non-public protecting gear and left the boardroom for the emergency room at Lisbon’s army hospital.

There, as a health care provider pressed into service within the coronavirus pandemic, he confronted feverish, coughing sufferers and helped line up their care. Some of them, although, had a curious query.

“From just looking at my eyes they would say, ‘Hey, are you not the Sporting president? Can I have a selfie?’”

Frederico Varandas is certainly the president of Sporting Clube de Portugal, one of many nation’s greatest soccer groups. He can also be Dr. Frederico Varandas, a reserve army doctor who accomplished a tour in Afghanistan a decade in the past earlier than switching his profession.

Varandas, 40, was not too long ago on name on the hospital for about six weeks, working 12-hour shifts treating army workers members and their households. His major activity was to check and consider the sufferers as they arrived, earlier than handing off the extra critical ones to his colleagues within the intensive care unit.

Though not the sort of army responsibility he was used to — he got here beneath enemy fireplace with a battalion of coalition solders in Kandahar, Afghanistan, a decade earlier — serving within the battle in opposition to the coronavirus introduced a special set of challenges.

There was the chance of contracting a novel, doubtlessly deadly illness that was not totally understood. And the work, he recalled, was extra time consuming than can be typical, as a result of medics had been required to disinfect their gear — sometimes goggles, gloves and a masks — between every session.

Still, there have been lighter moments, like being acknowledged even by way of his private protecting gear.

In Portugal, the presidents of the Primeira Liga’s three large soccer groups — Benfica, Porto and Sporting — have nationwide recognition on par with the top of state or the prime minister. Varandas stated he couldn’t recall the variety of occasions he was requested to pose for images by the point he accomplished his final shift on the finish of April.

He isn’t the one sports activities determine pressed into medical service within the world combat in opposition to the virus. In Canada, for example, Hayley Wickenheiser, a four-time Olympic gold medalist in hockey turned medical pupil, has been gathering protective equipment for staff and likewise serving to with efforts to trace the unfold of the virus.

Though sudden, he discovered his medical service fulfilling.

“Sports had stopped in Portugal and I thought that I am more important to the country working as a doctor,” stated Varandas, who this week agreed to speak about his expertise.

After serving within the army, attending the rank of lieutenant, he spent two years at a small-time membership primarily based close to Lisbon, earlier than being handed the chance for what he described as his dream job: turning into Sporting’s head physician. Varandas held the place for seven years earlier than, in 2018, he entered the race to change into the membership’s president simply as Sporting slipped into one of many darkest intervals within the crew’s historical past.

The crew’s funds had been in disarray, and the previous president was compelled out amid a mutiny from the membership’s membership. Worst of all, 9 first-team gamers walked out on their contracts after being set upon by a bunch of the crew’s disgruntled followers.

Varandas was elected after a bitter marketing campaign that was extensively adopted by the information media in Portugal and included nightly televised debates harking back to nationwide elections. “Football in Portugal is crazy, it’s like a religion, it’s sick,” Varandas stated.

Varandas has had combined outcomes. By the time the coronavirus pandemic struck Portugal, the funds of the membership had largely been stabilized, however outcomes on the sphere had been poor, with the crew nearly 20 factors behind the league chief, Porto, on the time the league was suspended in March. A battle with the membership’s organized fan teams has change into so extreme that Varandas stated the state now gives him with a safety element.

The soccer stoppage in Portugal, which mirrors the pause in a lot of the sports activities world, has solely introduced newer and extra instant issues.

After ending his shifts on the hospital, Varandas dialed in for prolonged late evening calls with board members to map out a plan to steer the membership by way of the sudden drama of getting its season frozen in time.

“I continued controlling things because football stopped, but the club continued,” Varandas stated. “It was not easy at all that first month and a half trying to cope with the hospital work and football.”

Board members, together with Varandas, agreed to 50 p.c pay cuts, whereas he known as gamers individually to persuade them to cut back their salaries by 40 p.c for 3 months.

Plans have been made for soccer to return on June 4, however video games shall be performed with out followers and beneath strict hygiene protocols, much like these adopted in Germany’s Bundesliga, the primary main European soccer league to return.

As a part of the protocol, Varandas is among the many sporting officers who’re required to endure common assessments for Covid-19, the illness brought on by the coronavirus, as a result of he’s involved with the enjoying squad. To him, the method relies on creating the right picture round soccer’s return as a lot as being rooted in science. Varandas recalled that he was not examined as soon as whereas he labored on the hospital the place he was frequently involved with coronavirus sufferers.

“Footballers are tested more than doctors working in hospitals,” he stated. “For me that’s really stupid, it’s political. I understand it politically, but scientifically this is ridiculous.”

Varandas, who makes a speciality of sports activities medication, not epidemiology, remarked that in Portugal, eating places and kindergartens have reopened with out comparable necessities for mass testing.

He sees a far greater problem on the horizon.

Even with video games heading in the right direction to return, Portuguese groups face large monetary challenges for the foreseeable future. The nation has for the previous 20 years punched above its weight in being a producer of world class expertise, extracting hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in income from some the world’s richest groups due to a premium on their “Made in Portugal” model.

The skill to do this is now doubtful, with figures just like the chief executives of the Bundesliga and the chief vice chairman of Manchester United saying the $7 billion a 12 months world switch market is headed for a serious correction.

Only this January, Sporting made the most important commerce in its historical past, promoting midfielder Bruno Fernandes to United for a price that would rise to 65 million euros. “Now sometimes I go to bed and imagine what would happen if we tried to sell Bruno Fernandes now — what would the price be? 15, 10?,” he stated.

“I don’t know what the value of a footballer is now. Sporting, Porto, Benfica, all the clubs in Portugal we have to sell players.”

Varandas stated the fallout from the coronavirus has uncovered the fragility of the world, and constructions like Portugal’s export pushed expertise mannequin.

“This is an experience you can’t forget,” he stated. “It’s incredible to see everything just stop, something that you could have never imagined happening before that something that seems so benign and can do this incredible damage.”


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